Settlement of HUD Complaint against City of Phoenix

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MEDIA RELEASE

After pressure from local groups, City of Phoenix agrees to positive changes to its Section 8 Housing Application Process

PHOENIX — Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Southwest Fair Housing Council (SWFHC), the Arizona Fair Housing Center (AFHC), and the City of Phoenix settled a complaint filed with HUD alleging disability, race, and national origin discrimination in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher wait list process. On August 8, the City of Phoenix opened its Section 8 Wait List, after an 11-year freeze on new applications. Social service and legal organizations worried that the process for adding people to the Wait List for safe, affordable and decent housing would exclude protected groups. HUD expedited opening an investigation and entered into settlement discussions with the parties. The Voluntary Settlement Agreement led to many positive changes to the Wait List procedures before the Wait List closed.

Prior to filing a complaint, Community Legal Services, the Arizona Center for Disability Law, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, SWFHC, AFHC, and other concerned citizens met and corresponded with City officials to offer proposals to improve the Section 8 Wait List procedures before the City reopened the Wait List. When the City refused to continue to make necessary changes, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, on behalf of SWFHC and AFHC, filed emergency discrimination complaints with HUD and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) responsible for enforcing civil rights laws, such as the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

During early negotiations with the agencies, the City agreed to switch from filling their Wait List by a first come, first served basis to a lottery system. In a first-come, first served procedure, the Wait List would have been closed after the City received the first 10,000 applications for a Section 8 voucher. In the lottery system, once the pre-application period closes, 10,000 applicants will be randomly selected using a lottery and placed on the wait list. Without this important change, the opportunity to be selected for public housing would have ended less than 24-hours later because the City received more than 10,000 applications on the first day. “These emergency complaints were filed to gain changes to offer an equal opportunity for all in the race for limited housing benefits before a very short window of opportunity closed for many years,” said Rose Daly-Rooney, Legal Director at the Arizona Center for Disability Law. The City agreed to many changes:

  • expand the period from originally days 2-days to August 8 to August 19, including the weekend;
  • offer paper applications via email or at the City of Phoenix Office located at 380 E. Jefferson;
  • provide necessary reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as providing an American Sign Language interpreter, taking applications via telephone, and accepting paper applications;
  • offer Section 8 and Wait List information in four languages in addition to English, including Spanish, Chinese traditional, Vietnamese, and Arabic;
  • post the online application in English and Spanish;
  • provide language assistance for people who do not speak English well through a language assistance line;
  • prominently display the notice about the availability of reasonable accommodations and language assistance on its webpage;
  • translate its Department of Housing website into Spanish within 6 months;
  • provide its Limited English Proficiency Plan (LEP), vital documents, and data about most prevalent languages to HUD’s review;
  • arrange annual training with HUD for the next three years on fair housing and other discrimination laws;
  • send a public service announcement to a list of food banks, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, churches providing outreach ministries and assistance to the community, disability groups, and groups and organizations providing services to people who are low income or LEP for Section 8 housing announcements for the next 2 years;
  • collaborate with the AFHC and SWFHC in for outreach and activities for Fair Housing month in April and
  • greatly improved accessibility of its online form for screen reading software.

“The settlement is a huge victory and I am humbled by the time and effort that everyone has dedicated,” said Jay Young, Southwest Fair Housing Council’s Director.

“Today’s agreement to resolve the discrimination complaint we filed with HUD and DOJ against the City of Phoenix and its Housing Department’s discriminatory roll-out of its Section 8 housing subsidy program for poor people should only be quickly celebrated,” said Enrique Medina Ochoa, Executive Director of the Arizona Fair Housing Center. “The City was not proactive enough in creating an equitable process for people to apply for the program. And they were even less proactive in their outreach efforts to inform people with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency about the opportunity to enroll in the program. Everyone in America should have a decent place to live!”

The SWFHC and the AFHC want the public to know the following:

  • Section 8 applications are being accepted until August 19, 2016 at 5 p.m.
  • The online application—available in Spanish or English—is available at https://www.phoenix.gov/housing.
  • Paper applications are available by emailing Nichole.ayoola@phoenix.gov or by picking one up at 830 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85034.
  • All applications—whether paper or online—must be submitted before August 19, 2016 at 5 p.m.
  • A list of community partners, including libraries and senior center, that will provide computer access at no cost, is available at https://www.phoenix.gov/housing/section8locations.
  • Applicants with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation by calling (602) 262-7497.
    You may need to leave a message. The City asks that callers be sure to clearly state their name, telephone number, and the reasonable accommodation you are requesting (e.g., I am a home-bound disabled person without internet access who needs assistance with submitting my pre-application). Reasonable accommodations may include taking an application by telephone, providing an ASL interpreter, questions, or accepting a paper application.
  • Applicants who do not speak English fluently may request language assistance by calling the City at (602) 534-1974.
  • Information about Section 8 and the Wait List Procedures in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese traditional, and Arabic is available at https://www.phoenix.gov/housing.
  • If you are not provided necessary reasonable accommodations or language assistance, or need more information and help, you may contact Southwest Fair Housing Council at 1-888-624-4611 or 602-252-3423 or the Arizona Fair Housing Center at 602-548-1599.

Note: This is a settlement update to the Discriminatory Barriers exist with City of Phoenix’s Housing Choice Voucher Lottery media release posted August 5, 2016.

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